Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Doug Glanville Hits Another MBB Triple  

Just Do It - Phil Knight.
Just Say 'No' - Nancy Reagan.
No Fear - No Fear Inc.
Do it Afraid - Jimmy Rollins.

Doug Glanville was probably the most educated player in the majors during his time there, a borderline starter who made the most of what talent he brought to the table, and a player who added value to most of the teams he played for by being what Malcolm Gladwell calls a "connector". He's extraordinarily emotionally intelligent, a fact I hadn't though of in a while until this morning.

This morning, The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece by Glanville (so Glanville & I now have four things in common: we both have degrees in Planning, we both are the fastest player on any team we play on, we both fall seriously short in the hitting department, and we've both had Op-Ed pieces in the NYT).

The piece is on (oh so predictably that the Times would get a writer of Glanville's caliber and print it because it's related, though only somewhat, to) supplements/steroids. And rather than a condescending piece or a self-righteous piece or a clinical piece, it's a thoughtful piece. No accusations, no defenses. Just a thoughtful piece that attempts to show what's going on in the mind of the kind of major leaguer who is most likely to have been mentioned in the "news" coverage of supplements in Baseball: an aging, now-marginal player looking for something that will extend his career a little.

HE will always be a rookie to me, but Jimmy Rollins, the reigning National League most valuable player, once gave me a poignant piece of wisdom that typically would flow from mentor to mentee, not the other way around. “Do it afraid,” was his advice — and it’s a lesson Major League Baseball had best learn if it is to put the age of steroids behind it.

A healthy amount of fear can lead to great results, to people pushing themselves to the brink of their capabilities. I can recall an opening day when I was a Chicago Cub getting set to face the Florida Marlins and hearing Mark Grace explain to the young players how he still got butterflies even after all his years in the majors.

Yes, baseball players are afraid. Not just on opening day and not just because of the 400-page Mitchell report and not just because of a Congressional hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball — like the one that took place Tuesday — but because they always have been afraid. A player’s career is always a blink in a stare.

 A player's career is always blink in a stare. And in contemporary business sector organizations, ours are, too. Why?

There is a tipping point in a player’s career where he goes from chasing the dream to running from a nightmare. At that point, ambition is replaced with anxiety, passion is replaced with survival. It is a downhill run and it spares no one. {SNIP} 

We’re scared of failure, aging, vulnerability, leaving too soon, being passed up — and in the quest to conquer these fears, we are inspired by those who do whatever it takes to rise above and beat these odds. We call it “drive” or “ambition,” but when doing “whatever it takes” leads us down the wrong road, it can erode our humanity. The game ends up playing us.

So let the rookie teach us all something important. Just do it, but do it ... afraid.

Read the whole piece if you want the full Baseball details and insight. But for Beyond Baseball, that is the core. In the struggle to be the highest-performing <insert title here> we can be, we too often forget that overall performance requires the full panoply of skills we get from our humanity as well as our professional chops. Bosses don't always appreciate that balance, and it can mess with your career. 

In the end, I think, someone who leads a Doug Glanville life by his code of conduct will not likely perform at the Roger Clemens or Ty Cobb level...it's unlikely that anyone who keeps one eye on one's own real life beyond work could succeed as a relentless hyperfocused career machine. And whether that career is Baseball or Finance or Sales or Music or or or, the likelihood is the same.

But Doug Glanville can look back on a life led by that code with a clear conscience. And he uses that Jimmy Rollins epigram to remind himself, to fuel his self-awareness.

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